Malefic Tastemaking In Metafictional Markets
Mall is quite beautiful. She knows she is, too—and stylish. Her hair is shaved underneath, short-ish on top, with a tight, straight bangline. She often has a little splash or dab of color in it somewhere. Her makeup is typically subdued but distinctive. Her eyebrows are always perfect. Sometimes she wears a nosering.
You say her name like Mallory, not like a shopping mall. I don’t know if Mall is short for Mallory or for something else. We’ve never made it that far.
Not only does she have a good deal of say over what ends up in my books, she also has sway over publishing at large.
When is this? you might ask—meaning, of course, is this in the 21st Century or the 32nd?
“Now,” is all I say, which I admit is kina shitty of me, but I don’t feel like getting into that right this minute.
I haven’t written that much about her. She appears in Chapter 64 of T Van Santana & the Black Book of Fear (“Clarified”) and that’s it. All I could find, anyway. I’ve written so much as this point, I’m continually finding things I wrote and forgot about. Anyhow, in that chapter, I kind of imply that we’re lovers. There are a few reasons for this, many of which you’re probably familiar with by now. But, if you’re new to this and to me, I’ll run them down for you.
First, I was pretty insecure in 2015 when … fuck what would it be in the book timeline? Hang on a sec … 3103? I think that’s right … Oh, wait. I used the dates in the chapters titles of the experimental drafts. Let me just look there … 3104, it says. Okay, so 3104. Let’s start over.
First, I was pretty insecure in 3104 when I wrote that chapter. Insecure in myself—yeah, sure, okay—but definitely insecure in my relationship and my overall position in life.
Second, I’m not saying I’m a sex or love addict, per se, but. Probably a little? It’s so hard to tell in the 2020s sex negative climate and this crazy post-Xtian world you guys live in. But in the 32C, it’s a hard ‘kind of.’
Third … I liked her, okay? I mean, it’s embarrassing, but I liked her. I thought she was super stylish and pretty and since it was my book and I could just indulge every stupid fantasy I had, I did. That’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s the truth. We need more truth of this kind in storytelling, I think, not just the ‘profound’ truth sort, although that’s certainly nice, too, and probably preferable to all my prattling on about fucking and eating pussy or whatever. There is a sort of profundity in simple things, though, in crass and ‘base’ things. And while many would cast these things as unworthy, I disagree. That disagreement does require some courage because I cannot yet strongly defend my position; it’s a feeling, a belief, a sentiment. But one I do know to be true.
Anyway, all that aside, you might wonder about Mall, as I did. She has that effect on people.
You might wonder if she’s an agent or a publisher or an editor.
You might wonder if she’s in a monogamous relationship, or if she is open.
You might wonder if she’s into people like you.
You might wonder if she likes you or what you do.
These are the sorts of things I know that she tries to cultivate: wonder. She wants to cultivate wonder, both in you and in everyone. She does this so that she can then provide you with answers to those wonderings without ever really satiating the wonder. In fact, all those stories and books and looks you get from her are likely to only stoke the wonder more. This is not accidental; it’s intentional. Completely intentional. It is her brand to make brands and to brand you, and in more ways than one.
That’s all fine in good. But the downside is, you wonder when she might tire of you and then it’s over. You’re over. You’re done. You don’t matter anymore, and you’re left with the curious and hollow yet all-too-familiar feeling that perhaps you never did. Matter, that is. Not to her, maybe not to anyone.
So in 3103, I was being a bit of a prickbitch and kissing the back of her head, smoking in her office—wait, did I put that part in there? … Never mind. It doesn’t matter. The point is I was being obnoxious, and when I read it now, I am ashamed of my bad behavior. Not in, like, a religious way. But in a healthy way, like, I can see now how I was acting then. I can see it in a light I could not then, and how it’s out of alignment with how I want to be in the world.
I’m telling her this, now, and saying something like I’m sorry.
She’s smiling slightly as she reads whatever it is that she’s reading. “You’re a trip, Tee,” she says in her impossibly cool accent.
I don’t really know how to take that, but I try to be gracious about it. “Thank you, Mall. For, you know, understanding.”
Mall puts down the manuscript and looks at me, her smile crawls up into one corner of her mouth. “You know every writer feels this way, right? It’s a trait of our species.”
A trait of mine is to argue every fucking point and that’s just what I want to do: to contest that fact and point out all the rapacious fuckers out there that, no, do not experience regret, remorse, or compunction over anything. But, I catch myself in time, thank fucking goddess. Saved by my training.
Instead, I smile wider and focus on what I agree with: “Yeah. I suppose you’re right. Lots of writers do go through something similar.” Because that’s all she meant anyway.
“How’s about,” she grins, “we talk about it more tonight. Over dinner. Say Hammel’s. At seven.”
It’s not really a question. That’s obvious, right?
But it poses important questions for me: Did I mean what I say? And have I really changed?
“Yeah,” I say. “Okay. Seven, then. At Hammel’s.”
“You know it,” she says.
I do. So I say, “I do.”
She shows a little bit of tooth when she smiles this time, “Don’t be late.”
“I won’t,” I say. And that’s about all I know for sure.
This chapter is, in part, a bit like a character analysis of Mall. Write your own analysis of Mall, or a similar kind of character if you have one in mind or just want to make your own.
Take a crack at writing (or least imagining) how the dinner might go. Do I actually make it on time? (I am notoriously late for everything.) Have I actually learned my lesson? Or does it just degenerate into smut and me making the same mistakes all over again for the blillionth time?
If you need an agent, Mall will take you on at my recommendation—which is probably the most fictional part of all this. You can add her to your contacts list.